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The hosting department in our agency has just realised that we have not invoiced a client for the hosting of their website ever (since we built and launched it in December 2011).

It is only on shared hosting so we're not talking a massive amount (would probably equate to about £200) - although we have a feeling there are numerous other hosting clients that have also not been invoiced for hosting either so this could rack up.

It is completely our company's fault that the invoices have never been set up and sent out - I actually have no idea why or how.

I am thinking that we should explain to the client(s) and set an annual invoicing date for the hosting going forward seeing as the error is ours but I'd be interested to hear what you might do in this situation?

It would not be particularly ethical to turn around and invoice the client for the past 4-5 years of hosting because we didn't realise they weren't being invoiced?

Is it ethical to back-date invoices for a period of years such as this when the company is at fault?

closed as off-topic by Lilienthal, The Wandering Dev Manager, Joel Etherton, AndreiROM, user8365 Feb 16 '16 at 19:04

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking advice on company-specific regulations, agreements, or policies should be directed to your manager or HR department. Questions that address only a specific company or position are of limited use to future visitors. Questions seeking legal advice should be directed to legal professionals. For more information, click here." – Lilienthal, The Wandering Dev Manager, Joel Etherton, AndreiROM, Community
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    "I'd be interested to hear what you might do in this situation?". Call a lawyer. In the absence of an actual question I'm voting to close this as a legal / company-specific question. – Lilienthal Feb 16 '16 at 13:31
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    Quite right Joe. Lilienthal, I think you have misunderstood the purpose of this question which Joe has already answered well below without any mention of legalities. – zigojacko Feb 16 '16 at 13:47
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    @JoeStrazzere A business approach that will be constrained by their legal rights and is entirely situational: some companies shouldn't invoice for PR reasons, some will have to to remain solvent, etc. "What should we do?" is an advice question and this post would have to be reworded if the actual question is "is it ethical to back-invoice?" – Lilienthal Feb 16 '16 at 14:04
  • Legal rights doesn't come into this Lilienthal. We are not constrained by laws on whether we invoice a business or not for a provision of service. I think you're being a bit picky over the 'question' here which is an unfortunate flaw of the SE network. Feel free to edit the six words in my question to comply if so be it. Regardless, I still feel this question and debate has a place on here and will be beneficial to other users that read it. – zigojacko Feb 16 '16 at 16:07
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although we have a feeling there are numerous other hosting clients that have also not been invoiced for hosting either

Find out the real depth of the problem first, then come up with a plan for how to deal with all of them in a consistent manner. You may not want to dismiss one client's fees while collecting another, so decide before you contact any of them.

It might be difficult to go back and invoice for 5-year-old charges. It would make your agency look rather incompetent to admit that you you didn't invoice correctly. You may just want to deal with this year's charges and write off the rest. And be prepared with a standard answer if clients question the "new" fee showing up on their invoice.

Then review your agency's business practices so you can learn how this happened, and how to prevent such lapses in the future. Someone(s) dropped the ball here. Hopefully the damage is minor, but you don't want a repeat of this sort of business failure.

Make sure your contracts' language reflects the fact that you will (or at least have the right to) charge for hosting fees.

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    Yes, I think that is what we will do. We have over 200 clients in total but not many on shared hosting plans (and not all of them are hosting clients). Of course, we have to pay for the equipment leasing which hosts these sites though which we've been paying for - I work out the loss over 5 years to be about £3k at the moment. – zigojacko Feb 16 '16 at 13:27
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    +1, this is the answer I would have given. No idea why Lilianthal suggested a lawyer is needed. I would add that, for each of the affected clients, I would meet them if practical, or definitely call them if not, and explain the situation- I would not just bill them out of the blue and handle any questions afterwards; you can use this opportunity to come out looking like a great and fair company, by not giving them any surprises, swallowing the back payments and admitting mistakes. – Marv Mills Feb 16 '16 at 13:42
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    Indeed, we have done just this and emailed the clients in question to explain and apologise for the error, writing off the arrears with request to invoice them from 1st March annually going forward. Thanks for your feedback Joe. – zigojacko Feb 16 '16 at 13:55
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    Totally agree, the only time this is worth pursuing is if it's a more substantial amount involved – Kilisi Feb 16 '16 at 15:01
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    @JoeStrazzere Regarding the "new" charge that appears, one approach might be to list the prior years' charges on the invoice, but dismiss them as some kind of "customer loyalty" discount. – Laconic Droid Feb 16 '16 at 16:30

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